Voulez-vous gouverner avec moi?

French politics enters a new phase of uncertainty with the need to find agreements to govern the country. The Nouveau Front Populaire took the lead, but no coalition achieved an absolute majority, complicating the formation of a government. The situation is made even more complex by the impossibility of holding new elections and the need to avoid agreements with the far right.
MARCO MICHIELI
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Versione Italiana

[PARIS]

With the end of the second round of voting, a new phase of French politics begins, defined by the need to find an agreement to govern the country. This is a delicate phase, and there is not a simple solution; there is no guarantee that it will end with a government and a sufficiently large majority. In any case, new elections will not be possible given that the power to dissolve parliament, one of the president’s fundamental powers, cannot be reused for a year following a dissolution.

The second round saw the success of the left-wing coalition Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP). The NFP came out on top in terms of number of representatives and did better than NUPES, the previous left-wing alliance, which held 150 seats. Today they have 180. The internal balance of power has also changed, even if La France Insoumise remains the leading party in the coalition, followed closely by the socialists.

President Macron’s coalition, Ensemble, performed better than expected in the vote, but has gone from 250 representatives to 158. Renaissance, Macron’s party, went from 169 seats to 98. Les Republicains (LR), the post-Gaullist party, and its allies obtained a good result with 67 parliamentarians.

The Rassemblement National (RN) lost the elections, but it gained seats, going from 89 deputies to 126, to which were added the 17 LR defectors. The result was a historic record for the far-right party.

The outcome of the election, which seems to have gone against the trend of what the polls have indicated in recent weeks, is the result of an effective Republican front against the far right. The withdrawals of candidates in the triangular elections and the high voter participation prevented the RN from obtaining an absolute, or even a relative majority. Both the left and the presidential coalition took advantage of the candidate withdrawals and today’s result essentially depends on the voters who systematically chose to oppose the RN candidate in the districts. It was not a given this would happen, and there were some differences: the left-wing voters were more “loyal” and the center voters a little less so.

As per tradition, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced his resignation but offered to remain in the position as head of government during the formation of a new government and during the Olympics. A period that could be very long.

This is the start of an unprecedented phase in the country’s history. A coalition of left and right have never run the country together during the Fifth Republic, which was created precisely to avoid the instability of the coalitions of the Fourth Republic. Now, no one party is able to claim an absolute majority, or even a relative majority that comes close to an absolute majority (289 seats), or even the 250 seats required just to govern with a minority government, as the presidential coalition has done for the past two years.

What are the positions regarding possible parliamentary government agreements?

Within the left, the leaders of the four main allies (LFI, PS, Les Ecologistes-EELV and PCF) reiterated last night that they are capable of governing, even without an absolute majority. But we don’t know how. The parties are divided over a possible coalition with the centrists, but a “no” came from Jean-Luc Melenchon, who was first from the left to speak after the election and who has never hidden his ambition to be prime minister. That ambition has been consistently rejected by allies in recent weeks.

Mélenchon tried to impose an intransigent line, in particular on the program of the New Popular Front, going so far as to say that he could govern by decree, even with an extremely small relative majority.

The position of the Parti Socialiste, which gained around thirty seats compared to 2022, is more nuanced. The PS has declared that the program of the left-wing alliance will be its “only compass”. At the same time, it also recognized that it will not be possible to govern without external support for the coalition when the secretary of the PS, Olivier Faure, invited the presidential camp to “never mix [its] votes with those of the far right to prevent the New Popular Front from governing”. Today Faure added that he wants to approve the NFP legislation with article 49.3 of the constitution which allows the government to avoid a parliamentary vote, a measure criticized for years by the left and which the NFP program would like to eliminate. Former French president François Hollande, an MP-elect, was more explicit, saying that the NFP should “try, if possible, to bring together other political families”, while admitting that it is “very difficult”.

The environmentalists also seem open to the idea of finding support. “As the leading group, it is up to us to build majorities around our project,” said Green Senator Yannick Jadot. However, the leader of the Greens, Marine Tondelier, took a slower approach, saying on Sunday that “this evening (…) is not the time to propose a prime minister – it is too early”, while in the previous days Tondelier had spoken of a “grand coalition”.

LR leaders have said they are not interested in a coalition agreement, at least for now, but this evening they will see the president of the republic. For the presidential coalition, the possibility of an agreement with other parties has been supported for days, with some limits, such as the exclusion of LFI and RN. Such a solution would require the end of the left-wing coalition, after it laboriously found an agreement and has its sights set on next year’s municipal elections.

While waiting to have a clearer picture, the president has made it known that he will wait for the “structuring” of the Assemblée Nationale to get an idea of the balance of power before deciding how to proceed. The first session of the new legislature is scheduled for July 18, when the deputies will have to elect the president of the Chamber. There is no fixed deadline for the appointment of the prime minister, rather only certain practices such as the resignation given by Attal (whom Macron asked to remain in government until a solution is found).

In the meantime, the left will probably be busy looking for a name to present to the president, between personal ambitions and power relations, and with an eye to possible parliamentary agreements. Given the complex situation, nothing obliges the president of the republic to appoint the person proposed by the left, unlike in the past.

From this point of view, Macron plays a key role since it is he who manages the procedure for appointing the prime minister. And he will use these powers. The logic of Italian-style consultations, however, is not common in semi-presidential France.

What remains of the former presidential majority? Even if the centrist coalition was able to do better than expected, thanks to the Republican front and the votes of left-wing voters, it lost one hundred representatives and the relative majority that had allowed the president to carry forward his agenda, including his least popular measures such as pension reform.

The situation within the party is not the best and distrust towards the head of state is no longer hidden. This was an electoral campaign where the president was not present on the campaign posters, unlike in the 2022 legislative elections. And the “tenors” of the coalition has made their voices heard, in view of the race to succeed Macron.

Gérald Darmanin, former Nicolas Sarkozy loyalist and now interior minister, declared that

the country is on the right. We must govern on the right. And we should not form a coalition with La France Insoumise and the Nouveau Front Populaire.

Édouard Philippe, the former prime minister during the health crisis, declared himself “loyal but free”, since the creation of his Horizons party. Yesterday he again criticized the decision to dissolve the National Assembly.

It was supposed to be a moment of clarification but instead it led to great uncertainty,

criticized the politician, who is now mayor of Le Havre.

Even the loyalist Attal yesterday expressed doubts about the dissolution and proposed the creation of a new political entity. In recent weeks economy minister Bruno Le Maire criticized the president, and today he resumed his criticism on X:

The new political situation resulting from the dissolution presents three main risks […] The most immediate risk is a financial crisis and the economic decline of France. The application of the New Popular Front program of breaking with the past would destroy the results of the policy that we have pursued for seven years and which has given France jobs, attractiveness and factories […] The second risk is an ideological fracture of the nation, which will bring with it incessant fighting and collective fatigue […] This is the final risk. The forces of the National Assembly are dispersed. Their ideas are even more scattered. We urgently need coherence and clarity. More than ever, therefore, let’s return to reality. […] All of the political forces that believe in the market economy, in the consolidation of public finances, in the energy transition, in European integration and in the unshakable restoration of the authority of the State must therefore put aside partisan interests to pursue the essential transformation of our economic and social model and assert our power.

Therefore, today Macron finds himself having to live with the solution that emerges from the election and to modify the political agenda that brought him to power in 2022. If he is not a lame duck, it is still a strong reduction of his power, a reduction that is the result of his decision to dissolve the Assemblée Nationale after a European election with proportional voting. A decision, as former prime minister Édouard Philippe said, which “killed” the majority.

The president had focused on the divisions of the left and right and their inability to organize themselves in a very short electoral campaign, the shortest in the history of the Fifth Republic. While he was correct about the divisions on the right – which, however, held out longer than expected, also thanks to the desistence not requested by LR – about the left there was an error of assessment. Faced with the fear of the far right in power, the left, which is extremely divided on the issues, found an electoral agreement which reduced the LFI, which nevertheless remains the main component of the coalition. Macron probably thought these rifts would help him in the second round of voting.

This was partly true – but above all it helped the left.

All Images are from X (Twitter)

Translation by Paul Rosenberg

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Voulez-vous gouverner avec moi? ultima modifica: 2024-07-08T16:00:31+02:00 da MARCO MICHIELI
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